Being the Physical Employment Status (PES) categories are

Being one of the countries with the lowest birth and
fertility rate in the world, Singapore’s workforce is shrinking rapidly while
we become one of the fastest ageing countries in the world. Given the dwindling
manpower resources, it is a good time to start pushing for mandatory enlistment
for females. As Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen mentioned in a dialogue session in 2015,
female conscription should not be for reasons of equity, but rather for
demographic reasons.

What is then stopping women from serving mandatory national
service?

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One of the main reasons is due to the physical and
physiological differences between men and women. Indeed, when war strikes,
combat will not be an equal opportunity situation for men and women. Studies
have found out that women are more at risk of injuries than their male
counterparts in combat training. This physical disadvantage results in a social
stigma that women are not fit to serve the military.

While it is true that men are more able to perform
physically strenuous tasks, not all jobs in the military are physically
strenuous. Given the rapid rate of technological advancement, there is an
increase in technology and equipment like fighter jets, armoured tanks or battleships,
all of which requires more brain than brawn to control and use it. There is a
wide spectrum of roles that serve the military – from frontline soldiers to the
less physically exhausting drivers, fighter pilots, medical personnel, or even intelligence
analysts and military strategists.

Besides, physical strength
and fitness are not prerequisites for military service; all males are required
to undergo military training regardless of how fit they are, so why not do the
same for females? At present, the Physical Employment Status (PES) categories
are used to classify servicemen which determines their roles. Whether combat,
as in PES A or B categories, or non-combat, all roles are just as important in
contributing to the success of our defence. With the implementation of females’
conscription, a suggestion would be to classify the citizen based on PES, regardless
of gender. This would allow the fitter females to train together with the
average male, while those who are not as combat ready can serve in other areas.

For this implementation to be practical and successful, the
mindset of Singaporeans need to be shifted too. Parents and families should be
ready to treat women as combat soldiers in the same that men are treated, while
females themselves should embrace the fact that they are crucial in serving the
nation.

Of course, this requires some time but after going through
physical training and tests of endurance, females would soon learn that they
can do so much more than they think. Throughout society, perceptions of what
women can do would broaden, as their roles in the military service become more prominent.

Besides, with more diverse perspectives from females, they
can influence discussions and lead to better decisions and results. By bringing
louder, more confident female voices to the table,